Jágr chosen as the face of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games hockey tournament

Jaromír Jágr (Foto: Ondřej Tomšů)

Jaromír Jágr is to be the public face of the ice hockey tournament at Beijing’s Winter Olympic Games in 2022. Jágr thus joins Canadian legend Wayne Gretzky among the personalities that are helping prepare and develop Chinese ice hockey. But it is not only on the level of personalities that cooperation is growing.

Jaromír Jágr | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International
One of the greatest legends of Czech ice hockey, Jaromír Jágr, will become the official public face of the ice hockey tournament at the Beijing winter Olympic Games in 2022. The announcement came after a meeting between Czech President Miloš Zeman and the Vice Premier of the Chinese State Council, Sun Chunlan, in Lány on Monday.

Jágr is not the only hockey star to become involved in developing hockey in the Asian superpower. Wayne Gretzky recently announced his involvement as well.

Hockey expert Pavel Procházka from the Czech newspaper Deník N, which broke the story, explains China’s motivation behind the move.

“They are collecting the most famous players of ice hockey history in order to popularize the sport in China. Wayne Gretzky has his own hockey school for young players and it seems likely it will be open to Chinese talent as well.”

It is not the first co-operation announcement between Czech representatives of the sport and their Chinese counterparts. In 2017 a memorandum between the Czech Ice Hockey Association and China was signed. It featured pledges to cooperate in training camps for young players, coach exchanges and methodology.

The association’s spokesman, Zdeněk Zikmund, described ongoing activities.

“It is more of a general document which serves as an umbrella for mutual activities on club level. Nevertheless, some projects have already taken place.

“For example, we had a group of Chinese players between the ages of 14-16 attend a week long training camp. They were trained by Czech coaches. The players were also accompanied by coaches from China, who received a number of specialised lectures.”

Teams such as Bílý Tigři Liberec, Vítkovice, Karlovy Vary and Plzeň have signed special agreements with Chinese partners and are cooperating especially on the level of youth development.

While China’s untapped market offers obvious commercial benefits, Mr. Procházka says it could also help bring Chinese talent to the Czech league.

“China is a large country with a vast population, so I think that one way in which Czech ice hockey can profit from this cooperation is in securing some of the future Chinese talent for the Czech Extraliga clubs, either through loans or signings.”

Apart from the Czech Republic, China has also asked Canada and Russia for cooperation. Meanwhile, NHL teams have been playing some of their pre-season games in China since 2017 and the league is in the process of setting up an office in the country.

Closer cooperation has been taking place also in football. Legendary Czech footballer Pavel Nedvěd has been serving as the sports ambassador in China and is one of the public faces of the Chinese Super League.